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Vita Sua in a Bygone Mobile

Part 16 in a series: Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble! Charlie is fitted for a black hat. Mel shocks us all.

Previous installments: 1, 2 , 3 , 4567, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15.

By A.D.
Mobile Bay Times
Shortly after A.R. arrived, X.X. came striding into the office, his face, as I remember, almost green in appearance.

"Give me the keys and get out of this office," he shouted.

We all slowly unhooked our office keys, passed by
his desk and dropped them thereon.

We moved on to the
Battle House for a
post-battle drink
and then departed
for our separate
homes.

A bit later that night
my phone rang. It
was X.X.

"You can come to
the office
tomorrow," he spat
out, and hung up
the phone.

Apparently, Mr. M had told him to accept our offer to continue to work for a time, reasoning that X.X. could not possibly operate the office by himself. The managing partners also hoped that they could induce at least some of us to change our minds and to that purpose all three Mr. M's, along with the Birmingham office manager, AL, flew into town Wednesday.

They adopted a 'divide and conquer' strategy. Each one of them took one of us and worked on him. I drew Mr. Tony M., a portly gentleman of Italian ancestry for whom I had a very high regard.

Mr. M took me to lunch and I leveled with him. I told him how outrageously we had been treated by X.X. and gave him some instances, including the occasion of my mother-in-law's heart attack.

"A, why didn't you tell us about this? We could have done something about it," my friend Tony said.

I thought, "Yes, maybe you would have. But then I couldn't afford to take the chance. One man standing alone could have easily been dropped down the drain."

Tony offered no inducement for me to change my mind, although he was clearly hoping I would suggest something along this line.

Meanwhile, the other boys were being worked on in similar fashion by the other members of the visiting contingent.

The real hatchet man of the quartet was Jerry M. He was convinced that my Charlie S. was behind the conspiracy.

He made a comment that was a classic for stupidity. Speaking of Charlie S., he said to X.X. and I, "His kind are a dime a dozen."

I had to restrain myself from belting him. We had all agreed that we would play it cool and not do anything or say anything which would put us in a bad light. Our ploy was to report that we were leaving as we had a right to do, and that was it.

A dime a dozen?

Give me a dime's worth of Charlies and I'd be the most successful broker in the South. With a dollar's worth, I'd be tops in the country.

Jerry M.
insisted on
grilling Charlie,
hinting darkly
that he might
be considering
legal action
against him.
Charlie agreed
to meet him in
his hotel room
for a
conversation
but only on the
condition that
his wife, Mel,
and I be
present.

Jerry was like an ambitious young district attorney. He
fired question after question at Charlie. Charlie just sat there, sucking on an unlit cigar. His only response was, "I have nothing to say."

Most unusual for Charlie who usually had plenty to say and
usually in colorful language. His silence doubtless infuriated Jerry, who probably became convinced he was guilty because of it. Charlie probably knew this and kept silent only to taunt Jerry the more.

Mel's Irish blood wouldn't permit her to keep silent, however.

"Listen, M-----, you SOB, Charlie didn't have a thing to do with it, but it's the smartest thing these boys have ever done. You put up with an SOB like X.X. while these boys do all the work. Anyhow, what do you care about Charlie? After all he's a dime a dozen."

She had heard about that remark.

I was amazed at the ferocity and the foul language of this lovely lady. She always chided Charlie about his profanity but she was surprisingly capable of a pretty good show in this area herself.

I must say that, on this one occasion, it was justified.

Jerry wilted before her attack and I must say I enjoyed it. He released Charlie from the witness stand.
 
(Next: Such a mess. But it cleaned up nicely.)